Yesterday lawmakers, representatives from the Department of Corrections, and inmate family members packed the Anchorage LIO conference room.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt detailed what currently happens when an inmate dies.
Schmidt: “Historically in our department we have always called the State troopers immediately when someone dies, we cordon off the area and we stay out of it, the coroner of course does whatever the coroner does, we do a review, internally and the review consists of management reviewing special incident reports, any incident reports the officers may have written, interviews with the staff, video tapes, log books, the appropriate management staff would make whatever policy changes need to be made, if any need to be made.”
Senator Hollis French asked Jeff Jessee with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority if Jessee thought the Trust should visit DOC facilities more given that 65% of Alaskan inmates suffer from mental illness to which Jessee responded.
Jessee: “Well Senator French I think we could but we are heavily engaged with the department I think they could tell you that we talk to the department absolutely every week, the resources it would take to cover all of the various department facilities and programs it would be an extremely expensive investment in terms of personnel.”
The hearing also heard from the families of Kirsten Simon, 33, who died in an Anchorage jail booking cell June 6 and Davon Mosley, 20, who died in an Anchorage jail isolation cell April 4.
Simon’s mother Cea Anderson said Simon had struggled with addiction but wanted to know why she didn’t get simple medical treatment to help with her withdrawals.
Anderson: “I thank you for your time and I’m very grateful that you’ve interviewed on this because I think it really needs to be checked, not just for her but for everyone that walks through that door because it could be you and it could be me and it could be your kid that died, your child that’s dead, that could die in a holding cell, you see what I’m saying, she was a human being.”
Lawmakers left the hearing requesting legislation to implement third-party independent reviews of such deaths.